In Texas, Giant Fish Breed Giant Fish

When it comes to growing giant largemouth bass, Texas has it figured out. Since 1986, the state’s Toyota ShareLunker program has conducted a breeding program using huge largemouths caught and donated alive by anglers. These donated bass, called Legacy Class, must be heavier than 13 pounds. They spawn in a facility before being released, along with their offspring, to spread big-fish genetics across the state.

The results of the program are apparent in the giant Texas bass caught each year. Many of them go right back into the breeding program, and the spring of 2024 was the fourth ShareLunker season in a row that has been deemed exceptional.

This spring, anglers contributed 19 Legacy Class, 13-plus-pound, bass from seven different lakes throughout Texas. Three new waterbodies recorded their first Legacy Class fish, but O.H. Ivie in west Texas was at the head of the class again this season with 12 entries.

O.H. Ivie generated seven consecutive Legacy Lunkers to close out the 2024 collection season. It has produced an unprecedented number of ShareLunkers during the last four seasons, accounting for the final ShareLunker of the 2020 collection season and then exploding for 12 Legacy Class Lunkers in 2021, 2022 and 2024. It proceeded to shatter the single-season collection record for that waterbody, with 15 ShareLunkers in 2023. O.H. Ivie boasts 51 combined Legacy Lunkers and multiple Legend Class entries over the past four collections seasons.

Highlights from the 2024 Toyota ShareLunker collection season:

  • Seven reservoirs delivered Legacy Class Lunkers (Fort Phantom Hill, Inks Lake, J.B. Thomas, Naconiche, O.H. Ivie, Sam Rayburn, Toledo Bend)
  • Three new reservoirs with Legacy Class ShareLunkers (Fort Phantom Hill, Inks Lake, J.B. Thomas)
  • Three new waterbody records (J.B. Thomas, Inks Lake, Fort Phantom Hill) and one new junior waterbody record (J.B. Thomas)
  • Angler Kyle Hall’s 15.82-pounder was the 37th heaviest all-time Texas largemouth bass
  • Angler Kyle Hall recorded a Legacy Lunker in three consecutive seasons
  • Six out-of-state anglers etched their name into the program’s record book. The anglers hailed from Kansas, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma and Washington.
  • Angler Larry R. Walker reeled in two Legacy Class Lunkers in 2024

    State biologists implemented a genetic analysis of this year’s Legacy Lunkers and made some incredible discoveries. For example, they determined ShareLunker 666, reeled in by Larry R. Walker from O.H. Ivie, was a recapture of ShareLunker 646 originally caught by Mechelda Criswell in 2023.

    A 13.2-pound fish from Lake Athens proved to be the offspring of ShareLunker 552 which was caught by Randall E. Claybourne in 2014 at Lake Fork. This is the first time a Legacy Class descendant from this specific family tree was discovered in the program.

    Of the 19 Legacy Class ShareLunkers, 13 of the fish had secondary relationships to either previous Legacy Class fish or other ShareLunkers that anglers submitted scale samples for genetic analyses. Tissue from a pair of full siblings from Oak Creek were submitted by Criswell through the ShareLunker app. One of these fish was caught in 2023 and the other in 2024.

    Unfortunately, one of this year’s 19 Legacy Class fish, the 13.42-pound ShareLunker 662 from Inks Lake, perished due to extenuating circumstances. However, in the last five years, the program has achieved an excellent overall fish survival success rate of 94 percent.

    Anglers who caught and loaned one of these 13-plus pound lunkers earn Legacy Class status, receive a catch kit filled with merchandise, a 13lb+ Legacy decal for their vehicle or boat, VIP access to the Toyota ShareLunker Annual Awards event, a high-quality replica mount of their fish from Lake Fork Taxidermy, and Bass University will provide a swag pack and annual subscription. These anglers also receive entries into two separate drawings – a Legacy Class Drawing and the year-end Grand Prize Drawing. Both drawings will award the winner a $5,000 Bass Pro Shops shopping spree.

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